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“White Civil Rights”? … I Just Can’t!

[caption id="attachment_5478" align="alignright" width="203"] Blog by Associate Colette Parker[/caption] Several years ago, an acquaintance shared with me that a group of middle-aged white men that he gathers with for Bible study at his church believe “white is the new black.” I asked what that meant. He shared that they believe they are being discriminated against. I asked him why they thought that way. He said “well it’s no longer popular to be a white man.” I asked “do you believe that white men are actually discriminated against”? He never answered the direct question, but said “well, they might have a point.” We were interrupted and never finished the conversation. I was reminded of his statement several days ago, when I heard that the National Park Service had given initial approval to the request of Jason Kessler to hold a “white civil rights rally” across the street from the White House in August – on the one-year anniversary of the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., which drew hundreds of white nationalists and supporters. Kessler was one of the organizers of the Virginia rally, during which 32-year-old Heather Heyer was killed when run over by a car driven by a self-described neo-Nazi; 20-year-old DeAndre Harris was brutally beaten with a metal pipe and wooden boards by white supremacists; and a self-described KKK leader fired a shot toward a counter-protester. The Virginia rally was organized to protest cities taking down Confederate statues. Kessler reportedly told a CBS affiliate in Washington that the purpose of this year’s rally is “to talk about the civil rights abuse that happened in Charlottesville, Virginia, last year.” (Note: a permit has not been issued by the National Park Service for the rally being planned for August 11 and 12 in the nation’s capital). I’m confused. Is “white civil rights” a thing? Are white people, in general – or white men, specifically – oppressed? The last time I checked, white people (particularly white men) were not on the losing end when it comes to the persistent racial disparities in education, health, employment, and wealth in this country. Where is the system that puts white people at a disadvantage when it comes to race? I’m not saying white people don’t experience prejudice – they do. But they do not experience unfair treatment as a social group based on that prejudice (discrimination); and they don’t experience discrimination backed by institutional power (oppression); and they certainly don’t experience oppression in which another racial group dominates them (racism). There are so many statistics/facts that speak to this: the May 2018 black unemployment rate is nearly double that of the white unemployment rate; whites have significantly higher rates of wealth than blacks and the wealth gap continues to widen; black students are more underrepresented at top colleges and universities than they were 35 years ago; blacks receive sentences that are 20 percent longer than those for whites who commit the same crime; whites make up 80 percent of Congress and nearly 90 percent of federal judgeships; mortality rates for white infants are at least 50 percent lower than for black infants. I could go on. Instead, I yield to ask someone to help me understand the preposterous notion of the oppression of white America.

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